Orange zest is a way to bring orange flavor to a dish without the bitterness that whole orange peel can bring.
The zest is the outer part of the peel and can be shaved from the fruit with the use of a zester (very fine shavings) or cheese grater (shavings are a bite larger).
The use of zest not only adds the most aromatic part of the orange fruit to your dish, it does so unobtrusively.
But consuming the whole peel has benefits.
Health Benefits of the Orange Peel
Orange peels, including lemons, limes, grapefruit, clementines, or any of your other favorite citrus fruits can be used in their entirety.
Just 1 tablespoon of orange peel provides 14% of the Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C, which is nearly 3 times more than the inner fruit. The same serving also packs about 4 times more fiber.
Studies show that diets high in vitamin-C and fiber benefit heart and digestive health and may protect against certain types of cancer.
Orange peel also contains good amounts of vitamin A, folate, riboflavin, thiamine, vitamin B6, and calcium
Orange peel is rich in plant compounds called polyphenols, which may help prevent and manage many chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease (Frontiers In Nutrition).
One study showed the total antioxidant activity of a chemical called polyphenol was significantly higher in the peel than in the actual fruit (PNFS).
Orange peels are a good source of the specific polyphenols called hesperidin and polymethoxyflavones (PMFs), both of which are being studied for their potential anticancer effects.
Hesperidin is found only in the pith of the peel. The chemical had shown in studies to maintain a healthy blood pressure.
Nearly 90% of the essential oils in orange peels are composed of limonene, a naturally occurring chemical that has been studied for its anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties, including against skin cancer (PubMed).
They can be candied, incorporated into beverages, zested over your favorite dishes, or even used to start a summer campfire. If you plan on eating the peel, however, be sure to use organic fruit.